September 20, 2022
Under the Adams Administration, the Zombie Homes Initiative was granted permanent funding to build on the pilot’s success.
NEW YORK – The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the New York City Law Department today announced a milestone for the City’s Zombie Homes Initiative having recouped over $1 million in penalties from mortgage holders of vacant properties who failed to comply with New York State’s Zombie Property and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2016, commonly referred to as the “Zombie Law.”
“Our administration is sending a clear message that blight is not welcome in New York City,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “No New Yorker wants to live next to an abandoned vacant lot, and we are holding absentee property owners accountable to ensure that we can expand this from a pilot into a permanent program that will continue to serve New Yorkers well into the future.”
“The Adams Administration demonstrates again we can Get Stuff Done, this time by holding owners accountable and putting abandoned homes back into productive use through the Zombie Homes Initiative,” said Chief Housing Officer Jessica Katz. “The Zombie Homes Initiative is one of many tools we are using to tackle our city’s housing shortage and ensure everyone finally has a safe, affordable home for their family.”
“Vacant and abandoned homes should not exist in a city experiencing a housing affordability crisis. It makes no sense,” said HPD Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr. “HPD’s Zombie Homes Initiative has proven to be a powerful tool for cleaning up blight and protecting the health and vitality of neighborhoods. We have taken action against hundreds of mortgage holders who have failed to maintain their properties and our next step is to continue to find more ways to turn them into affordable homeownership opportunities for New Yorkers. Thank you to Mayor Adams and our partners at City Law, the Departments of Buildings, and Sanitation along with LISC, Restored Homes, and CNYCN for your partnership in making this a success.”
“An abandoned property can pose serious health and safety issues for people and can be a blight on an entire community,” said NYC Corporation Counsel Sylvia Hinds-Radix. “The City of New York will hold banks and other mortgage holders fully responsible for turning a blind eye to their legal responsibilities to maintain properties and for negatively impacting New Yorkers’ quality of life.”
Zombie homes are vacant, abandoned, and distressed small homes whose owners are behind on mortgage payments. New York’s Zombie Law curbs the threat that zombie homes pose to communities by requiring mortgage holders — banks and mortgage servicers — to inspect, maintain, and report vacant and abandoned properties or face penalties of up to $500 in fines per day.
HPD’s Zombie Homes Initiative partners with the Law Department, other City and State agencies and community stakeholders to take action against zombie homes that threatened neighborhood blight. In partnership with the NYC Departments of Sanitation, Buildings, and Law, the initiative has intervened to clean up, inspect dangerous buildings conditions, and/or bring legal action against the owners of nearly 1,300 Zombie homes in violation of the law. To date, the program has secured over $1 million in penalties.
“Abandoned buildings create quality of life issues for New Yorkers in every neighborhood,” said Buildings Commissioner Eric Ulrich. “Our partners at HPD are doing important work by holding mortgage holders accountable for the upkeep of their properties. The Adams administration is taking bold steps to tackle this problem by making the Zombie Homes Initiative a permanent enforcement strategy.”
“Zombie homes are a blight on neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs, creating frustrations and often dangerous conditions for those living around them,” said Jessica Tisch, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Sanitation. “We are pleased to partner with our colleagues in government to assist in cleaning up these properties and, in turn, raise the quality of life for all in the neighborhood.”
Under the Adams Administration, the Zombie Homes Initiative will become a permanent City enforcement program after launching in 2017 as a pilot with generous support from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).
In recent years, the initiative has aimed to breathe new life into zombie properties by facilitating their acquisition for new affordable housing opportunities with the support of trusted partners including Restored Homes Housing Development Fund Corporation (Restored Homes HDFC), and the Center for New York City Neighborhoods (CNYCN), who have helped lead efforts to acquire and rehabilitate of zombie homes.
“Addressing zombie homes across New York City is important for healthy neighborhoods, and putting these homes back into productive use can also help alleviate the affordability crisis,” said Valerie White, Senior Executive Director of LISC NY. “LISC is proud to be part of public-private partnerships like this that increase access to quality housing and help make neighborhoods vibrant.”
“While zombie homes create blight and destabilize neighborhoods, they can also provide a resource for much-needed affordable housing,” said Salvatore D’Avola, Executive Director of Restored Homes HDFC. “Through the Zombie Homes Initiative, derelict homes can be transformed into affordable homeownership opportunities for many low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. Thank you to HPD, the Law Department, and all the partners involved in this important endeavor.”
“The Zombie Homes Initiative is a critical program to identify vacant and abandoned homes, hold servicers and banks accountable for their maintenance, and stabilize neighborhoods by turning these derelict properties into safe, affordable homeownership opportunities,” said Christie Peale, CEO and executive director, Center for NYC Neighborhoods. “Exacerbated by the 2008 foreclosure crisis, zombie properties have had a tremendously destructive impact on various communities across New York City. We commend Mayor Adams and HPD for continuing to advocate for solutions that combat the rise of zombie properties and in paving the way for more homeownership opportunities across the city.”
Zombie properties are emblematic of the 2008 foreclosure crisis when many small homeowners struggled with rising housing costs. Neighborhoods with high rates of foreclosure and vacancy suffer from reduced property values and increased public health risks, such as rodent infestation or risk of fire. Vacant and abandoned properties also place a burden on municipalities, including unpaid property taxes and utility bills, and the cost of emergency repairs.
"There is no excuse for banks or mortgage companies to neglect and leave unattended properties that are in the foreclosure process. Community neglect is the spark for many other social ills with serious negative consequences for our neighborhoods,” said New York State Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz. “Thanks to the work of HPD, corporate owners of vacant and abandoned properties are being held accountable. However, the looming possibility of mass foreclosures on the horizon due to our current economic woes calls for such neglect to see even higher fines and I have introduced legislation to do exactly that. Holding big businesses accountable for their bad policies needs stronger deterrents to such behavior for the sake of all our communities. I look forward to working with HPD and our city to get it passed."
The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) promotes quality and affordability in the city's housing, and diversity and strength in the city’s neighborhoods because every New Yorker deserves a safe, affordable place to live in a neighborhood they love. We maintain building and resident safety and health, create opportunities for New Yorkers through housing affordability, and engage New Yorkers to build and sustain neighborhood strength and diversity. HPD is entrusted with fulfilling these objectives through the goals and strategies of Housing Our Neighbors: A Blueprint for Housing and Homelessness, Mayor Adams’ comprehensive housing framework. To learn more about what we do, visit nyc.gov/hpd and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @NYCHousing.